Fabrics at Alice + Olivia
Summer is approaching, the days are getting longer, the craving for watermelon is getting stronger, and – most importantly – college students will begin to start their summer internships.
Last summer, I decided to stay in Manhattan and intern for Alice + Olivia in their fabric department. I began by searching through my school’s career service website for fashion-related internships. From the list, I selected the ones which I was most interested in and began emailing them my resume and cover letter.
Alice + Olivia was my first choice and they promptly e-mailed me asking when I would be available for an interview. Soon, I found myself among racks of sequined, chiffon, gathered skirts, and brightly-hued garments. I didn’t know where to look first!
As far as my interview outfit went, I picked out a fun, yet professional look consisting of a silky bird print kimono cardigan over a teal cowl shirt, a pleated black skirt, and royal blue opaque tights. (This is the fashion industry, after all.)
I had come prepared with a couple of questions to ask about the position, and had also prepared answers to questions I believed they would ask me. I had gone to a internship fair at my school that semester, so I had some experience with the interview process.
The interviewer asked me a couple of questions:
Why are you interested in this position? What attracted you to Alice + Olivia? How can your previous work experience benefit this internship? When will you be available to work?
Afterwards, she talked more about the internship, including its involvement with other departments. Then, designer Stacey Bendet gave me a tour of the fabrics department and staff, and asked if I had any questions. She offered me the position at the end of the interview and I was on my way!
Alice + Olivia Spring 2013 Photo Credit
What You Need to Be a Successful Fashion Intern:
Before you start your fabulous new fashion intern position, you’ll have to prepare! Before I share my internship experience, here are some things I found essential throughout the process.
For the interview:
- Resume. I always bring a couple copies – even if I submitted one online – just in case.
- Portfolio. (For fashion students.) Alice + Olivia did not require one, but other companies will, so make sure to keep your portfolio updated. It’s easier to take a few photos after each finished project rather than trying to compile it all later.
- A Smart, Styled Outfit. Make sure it’s professional, but still expresses your aesthetic. This is key, especially in the fashion industry.
- Questions. People like when you have questions about the internship; it shows you have a true interest in the position.
For the job:
- Water. Stay hydrated, especially when you’re on the move during the summer.
- Flat, Comfortable Shoes. Internships often require you to stand for long periods of time and run between stores, buildings, and factories.
- Layered Outfits. The offices can be cold, but you won’t be there all the time. Be prepared to shed those jackets in the muggy summer weather.
- A willingness to volunteer for any job. Decide to accept all the jobs everyone else does not want, even if they do not necessarily relate to your field of interest. It could be an unexpected educational opportunity, plus it will make you memorable as a can-do person! Additionally, ask your employers if they have any tasks for you to do if they haven’t assigned another job. If there isn’t much to do that day, offer to complete tasks that aren’t time-sensitive. For example, at a fashion internship, offer to organize the fabrics or retag fabric rolls that have lost their labels.
- Individuality/Communication. Make sure to be professional, but do not lose your own personality. Get to know your employers, share your solutions if any problems arise, and find the most efficient way to complete your jobs.
- Organization. This always helps! Being organized can make your employers’ jobs easier if you keep your work space neat. Help put things back in order and always stay on top of your assignments.
Alice + Olivia Spring 2013 Photo Credit
What I Learned:
The internship was a great experience and allowed me to get a taste of the fashion industry firsthand. I was able to see the design process in detail, from inspiration boards to final garments and accessories.
As a fabric intern, I was responsible for receiving new fabrics, which meant cutting a long swatch, about 4″ wide, selvedge to selvedge, to be stapled and rolled onto a sheet of cardboard with the fabric number, mill, color, yardage, and content. This was put into a clear sleeve and accompanied by another full-length swatch, this time about 2″ wide. The last swatch we would take from the fabric would be a small swatch, about the size of an index card, for Stacey Bendet’s mood boards.
These sleeves were then given to my manager who graded their quality and decided whether to approve or not approve them. Once they were approved, she made tags containing the information on the cardboard for the 2″ wide swatch, which was then hung on a rack in alphabetical order by mill name, and for the fabric roll. She also made labels for the cardboard and created a small notebook which had mini swatches (taken from the 2″ swatch, which we would swatch from when necessary) of all the fabrics.
I was also tasked with delivering and receiving fabrics from the Alice + Olivia factories in the garment district as well as sending fabrics to be dyed. Additionally, the fabric interns had to roll all of the new fabric, if it was not done so already, onto a roll before placing it into each bin. We were then sent to swatch or cut yards of various fabrics for the fabric, design, and production teams. We also had a section for the fabrics with UE prints, which were created by the print designer.
By the end of the summer, I became extremely familiar with all the fabrics, knowing their content, what mill they came from, what season they were being used for, and where each roll was located in our fabric bins. I also learned the different steps in the acquirement and management of the fabrics, from the person who met with the mill representatives who carried suitcases full of fabric samples, to the person who determined how much fabric to order or reorder. (Yes, these are separate jobs.)
Alice + Olivia Spring 2013 Look using a UE Print Photo Credit
All of us interns were occasionally dispatched to other departments to help when there wasn’t much work in our respective positions or if there was a large project in another. I ended up helping with managing completed garments in the closet, working on tech packs (pages with garment specifications like trims, measurements, and fabric content), and organizing line sheets (style, style number) during these exchanges.
I was also fortunate enough to be present when Alice + Olivia moved their offices from midtown, across from Bryant Park, to the Meat Packing District, right above the High Line. The move put more departments on the same floor so it was really interesting to see how they worked together to create the collections. From the move, I was able to see more of the what the design team did, including the development and editing of the prints.
Additionally, the garment closets were located on our floor so we were allowed to look at their construction and see the popular trends (in silhouettes, colors, and fabrics) for the upcoming seasons. Us interns also acted as messengers between the various departments, so we were often sent to the other floors, allowing us a peek into the different areas of the company.
Alice + Olivia Spring 2013 Photo Credit
Lastly, Stacey Bendet’s office was at the end of the open floor plan which gave us the opportunity to see what the creative director did. It was also fun to see the whimsical decor she utilized in the new building, using fashion patterns from the brand for wallpaper. There was even scratch-and-sniff banana wallpaper!
At the end of the summer, my employers attended the TEXWorld exhibition, where mills from around the world displayed fabric samples. For this event, the other fabric interns and I made business cards for our bosses to hand out. We also accompanied them to the exhibition, where we got to observe and aid in the selection of fabrics. Selection involved seeking out fabrics to complement the upcoming seasons and finding replacements for fabrics they wanted changed in new collections.
During the move, we helped reorganize the fabrics by re-swatching each one to insure that they were still labeled. Dealing with fabric, especially when I volunteered to help them move in the fabrics (which we ended up reorganizing three times according to material content) involved a lot of physical activity, by the end I had some arm muscles!
All in all, I found interning at Alice + Olivia to be a wonderful and educational experience, one which gave me great insight into what it takes to bring a fashion collection to fruition. It was also a lot of fun meeting the other interns (we keep in contact and try to meet when everyone’s available), interacting with the other departments, and getting to know the staff. If you have the chance to intern for A+O, I highly recommend you take it!
What do you think of this post? Where have you interned? Was your experience anything like mine? Would you like to see more posts like this? Tell me your thoughts by leaving a comment below!